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Earth Community Organization (ECO)
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Dr. A.S.R.A.S. Sastri, V.P. Singh

for Discussion Roundtables 26, 48, 49 and 55

Table of Contents

Agricultural sustainability - a case study for rainfed rice in eastern India

Development of agriculture in a sustainable manner is the primary mandate of agricultural scientists of the globe. With the increasing use of chemical fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides, there is an international consciousness for environmental protection.

In collaboration with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines, I am working on the environmental characterisation and assessment of sustainability of rainfed rice production in Eastern India. We started the project work with a basic concept that ‘sustainability is not a destination but is a continuous journey’. I went to IRRI as a ‘visiting scientists’ for 3 months and initiated the work in collaboration with Dr. V.Pal. Singh, Agronomist and co-ordinator South Asia Programme of IRRI. Dr. Singh has a tremendous knowledge and vast experience on environmental characterisation and measuring sustainability. We initially assessed the sustainability using the time series data of rice productivity in Eastern India. Based on the average productivity level and its variability, the sustainability has been assessed depending upon the level and its productivity and variability. A sustainability ladder concept has been developed and the position of each district of each state has been assessed. A comprehensive agro-ecological atlas has been developed in which the status of rainfall probability, stable rainfall periods, sustainability status of strategies for improving the rice productivity in a sustainable manner have been discussed. Also, the impact of technological and environmental components in the fluctuations and trends of rice productivity in different states of eastern India have been worked out.

Even in the Agenda 21 of the Earth Summit held in 1992, there was a special mention about this aspect. However, in case of agriculture, with the endeavour for increasing the productivity to meet the challenges of population exploration, there is always a threat for environmental degradation with modern agro-technologies. It is, therefore, necessary to understand the threshold limits above which the environmental degradation is harmful to human kind. This can be achieved if sustainability is considered as a continuous journey rather than a destination. This is particularly true in case of agriculture where there is a tremendous demand for new technologies.

In view of this an analysis of the sustainability of rainfed rice production in Eastern India has been carried out as a case study. In Eastern India, comprising the states of Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Eastern Madhya Pradesh, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and North Eastern States, rice is grown during South-West monsoon season mainly under rainfed conditions. The productivity of rice is low (1.2-1.5 t/ha) and there is a scope for doubling the productivity of rice in these parts. The second green revolution is expectedto take place in rainfed areas in India especially in Eastern India.

Based on the time series data of rice productivity and its variability a sustainability ladder concept has been developed for each state in Eastern India. The different districts in each state which fall either below the sustainability ladder or above in rice productivity have been identified. In the districts below the sustainability ladder, there is a need to increase the productivity and for those districts above the sustainability ladder there is a need to stabilise the productivity. The strategies for either increasing the productivity or increasing thestability have been mentioned. The rice productivity in each district, after reaching the sustainability ladder should be increased, in a 2-3 year time frame and then stabilise the same in similar time frame and so on. This type of strategy would be of immense help in increasing the productivity in a sustainable manner. Moreover, once the productivity increased and in the stabilising period, there would be enough time to developed new technologies or to tune the technologies which have already been developed to fit into this sustainable ladder.

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